About the National Science Teachers Association
Are all members of NSTA science teachers?
Membership is open to students, individuals, and institutions. NSTA’s members include science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives, and other involved in science education.
How many members does NSTA have and where do NSTA’s members live?
NSTA’s more than 55,000 members are from every state across the country and from many other countries in the world. The states with the largest membership are California, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Texas.
Does NSTA have student chapters?
Yes. NSTA has over 90 student chapters for undergraduates with an interest in science teaching at colleges and universities across the United States.
What types of products and services does NSTA offer to teachers?
NSTA offers e-learning opportunities for science teachers, award-winning classroom resources and professional development programs, and competitive awards and grants. The online NSTA Learning Center provides easy access to a variety of resources that help educators to increase content knowledge at their own pace. NSTA Journals and NSTA Press® books are valuable resources for teachers at all levels. The NSTA National Conference on Science Education and three area conferences offer teachers the latest in science content and teaching strategies to expand their professional growth. Professional development opportunities in the form of Research Dissemination Conferences, Professional Development Institutes, and NSTA Symposia are also available. NSTA also administers a number of student and teacher grant and recognition programs.
How does NSTA help make science teachers better informed about science?
NSTA interacts with almost 300,000 science educators via via three e-newsletters: NSTA Express, a weekly e-newsletter; Science Class, a monthly e-newsletter with up-to-date news about science education and classroom resources; and Scientific Principals, a monthly e-newsletter for elementary school principals
NSTA offers several professional development opportunities, including national and area Conferences on Science Education; the NSTA Learning Center; Professional Development Institutes and Research Dissemination Conferences; and NSTA Symposia.
NSTA Science Objects and SciPaks (found in the NSTA Learning Center) provide teachers with discrete, content-based online learning experiences they can use to quickly enhance their understanding of a scientific concept. NSTA Press® regularly publishes content rich publications on key science concepts.
Does the NSTA have science programs for K-12 students?
Yes. The Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision Awards program encourages K-12 students to combine their imaginations with the study of science and technology to explore visions of the future and find solutions for real-life problems. For more information about this exciting program, visit http://www.exploravision.org/.
In addition, SciLinks® (www.scilinks.org) connects the content of science textbooks to NSTA-approved websites that students can use to enrich their science learning. Eleven publishers now feature SciLinks® in key science textbooks that are used by more than 100,000 teachers and 470,000 students.
Student Achievement in Science Education
How do students in the U.S. compare to students around the world with respect to their knowledge of science?
There are a few studies that compare science education around the world. One study is the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). TIMSS was created by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) to track mathematics and science achievement.
The 2003 TIMSS tested students in fourth and eighth grade around the world. See the chart below to see how the United States compares to other countries with respect to science and mathematics education.
The chart shown below gives information on the countries who received the top and bottom scores in the 2003 TIMSS.
||Top Three Countries and Scores
||Bottom Three Countries and Scores
|Hong Kong SAR 575
||Saudi Arabia 332
|Korea, Republic of 589
|Hong Kong SAR 586
||South Africa 264
|Chinese Taipei 551
|Chinese Taipei 571
|Korea, Republic of 558
||South Africa 244
The above information was taken from the Institute for Education Sciences National Center for Education Statistics website. For more information, please click here.
Are students required to take a science assessment? If so, how often?
Starting in the 2007/2008 school year, students in the United States are required to take a science assessment once in elementary, once in middle, and once in high school under No Child Left Behind.
How many credits of science does a student need to take to graduate?
As of 2004, 42 states required their students to take at least two credits of science to graduate high school, with 20 states requiring three credits and three states requiring four credits. (State indicators of science and mathematics education 2005. Washington, DC.)
What are the things that students learn in elementary, middle, and high school about science? What are the National Science Education Standards?
The state in which students attend school determines the science content that they learn at each grade level. The National Science Education Standards outline the science content that each student should know at each grade band. To view the National Science Education Standards, please visit click here. The National Science Education Standards not only sketch out K-12 science content standards, but they elaborate standards for science teaching, professional development, science assessments, science education programs, and science education systems.
What can be done to increase student achievement in science?
Research shows that the most direct route to increased student achievement is high-quality teaching. High-quality teaching can be obtained through quality professional development opportunities, mentoring, pre-service training that emphasizes hands-on inquiry-based learning in science, and increased time for planning.
High-quality teaching requires:
- Deep content knowledge;
- A focus on skills of science and exploration and questioning;
- Allowances for, recognition of, and building on learning styles and abilities;
- Foundation in the alignment of curriculum assessment, and high standards; and
- Evaluation by student performance.
America’s Science Teachers
How many teachers are there in the U.S.?
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) projected that a little over 3.6 million teachers are employed in public and private elementary and secondary schools in 2007-2008. For more information, please click here.
How many educators currently teach science in U.S. public and private K–12 schools?
NSTA estimates that the United States has nearly 2 million public school and private school K–12 teachers of science. The majority of these educators (1.6 million) teach at the elementary level, and NSTA considers all of them to be teachers of science.
Elementary: 1.6 million
Middle: 54,000 to 68,331 (teach science as a main or secondary assignment)
High School: 98,000 to 111,000 (teach science as a main or secondary assignment)
(State indicators of science and mathematics education 2005. Washington, DC.)
Is there a state-by-state breakdown on the number of science teachers?
The appendices of the State Indicators for Science and Mathematics Education 2005 contains a state-by-state breakdown of the number of mathematics and science teachers. The Secretary’s Annual Report on Teacher Quality also includes a state-by-state listing of the number of science teachers and the percentage of those teachers on waivers in the supplemental table section. State-by-state profiles that are specifically tailored to K-12 STEM Education are available.
How many teachers teach biology? Chemistry? Physics?
A listing of the number of high school science teachers by subject can be found below. These numbers were taken from the appendices of State Indicator for Science and Mathematics Education 2005.
||Number of Teachers*
| Physical Science
*These numbers include science teachers whose main or second or third assignment is in the specified subject.
How many science teachers are teaching out of field?
||2nd or 3rd Assignment
||% Certified Broad Field
||% Not Certified
||% Certified Broad Field
||% Not Certified
Percentages correspond to the whole United States.
Main Assignment = half time or greater assigned to subject
2nd or 3rd Assignment = less than half time assigned to subject
(State Indicators of Science and Mathematics Education 2005 appendices)
Why is there a shortage of qualified science teachers?
One reason for the shortage of qualified science teachers is a high turnover rate. Richard Ingersoll found that after 3 years, nearly 30 percent of all beginning teachers left the profession, and this number jumped to nearly 40 percent after 5 years. The main reason for teachers leaving the profession seems to be job dissatisfaction. According to the NSTA science teacher survey, job displeasure was teachers’ top reason for potentially leaving their profession. The top two reasons for job dissatisfaction were poor administrative support and low salary.
Industry, with its ability to pay top dollar, is attracting both prospective new teachers and those who have spent many years in the profession. Of college graduates who are trained to be teachers, two out of five opt not to go into the teacher profession.
The average beginning pay for teachers nationwide is $26,639, and the average salary, $40,574. In comparison, college graduates who enter engineering can earn an average of $44,362 annually. For science teachers, the lure of science and technology careers is becoming more and more enticing.
Science, mathematics, and special education are the subjects with the greatest demand for teachers. Of 5,000 science teachers polled by NSTA, 59% indicated that their school had trouble filling vacant science teacher positions, and 40% indicated that they were thinking of leaving the profession.
What is the average teacher salary?
The average teacher salary in the 2004–05 school year was $47,808. (National Education Association. Rankings and estimates update: A report on school statistics.)
What is the percentage of women that teach high-school science?
According to data reported by 35 states, in 2002, 52% of biology teachers, 47% of chemistry teachers, and 30% of physics teachers were women. (State indicators of science and mathematics education 2005. Washington, DC.)
Science Education in the Classroom
How much time is spent on science in the elementary classroom?
According to a 2007 Center for Education Policy study, the average amount of time spent on science in the elementary classroom was 178 minutes per week. The time spent on English language arts and mathematics was 503 and 323 minutes per week, respectively. To view the study, please click here.
How much time is spent on science in the middle level classroom?
According to a 2007 Center for Education Policy study, the average amount of time spent on science in the middle school classroom was 250 minutes per week. The time spent on English language arts and mathematics was 331 and 274 minutes per week, respectively. To view the study, please click here.
How much time is spent on science at the high school level?
The time spent on science in the high school classroom depends on the state in which the student is educated, the graduation requirements of the school district, and the interests of individual students.
What is inquiry-based learning?
Inquiry-based learning is a way of obtaining knowledge through the process of asking questions. In inquiry-based learning, students pose their own questions or are asked questions by a teacher, and the students then play a large part in answering the question through experiments, measurements, observations, and models. To read the NSTA position statement on scientific inquiry, please click here.
Where can I find NSTA’s official position statements on topics like the teaching of evolution, use of animals in the classroom, lab safety, and science fairs?
NSTA publishes position statements on numerous topics important to science educators. Visit www.nsta.org/position to view and download any of our 37 statements.
What is the typical sequence of science courses taught in middle and high school?
While there is no “typical” sequence of science courses, you can view the percentage of students in middle and high school enrolled in specific science courses in the State Indicators of Science and Mathematics Education 2005 appendices.
How can parents help their children explore science at home?
One of the most important ways that parents can contribute to their child’s science education is by maintaining a positive attitude about science. Parents can encourage their children to examine the world around them and to ask questions about what they see while making sure to listen carefully to what their child has to say. Another important aspect of helping children to learn science is not being afraid to admit when one does not know the answer. To read more about helping children to learn science, visit the Department of Education website for the Helping Your Child Learn Science booklet. To read the NSTA position statement on parental involvement in science education, please click here.
Science Education Policy
What does STEM stand for?
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.
What is the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, and why is it important?
Rising Above the Gathering Storm is a report by the National Academies that calls for a wide-ranging and coordinated federal effort to boost U.S. competitiveness and pre-eminence in the marketplace and science and technology, areas where U.S. advantages have begun to wane. The report makes four key recommendations:
- Increase America's talent pool by vastly improving K-12 mathematics and science education;
- Sustain and strengthen the nation's commitment to long-term basic research;
- Develop, recruit, and retain top students, scientists, and engineers from both the U.S. and abroad; and
- Ensure that the United States is the premier place in the world for innovation.
As a result of Rising Above the Gathering Storm, several key pieces of legislation that support STEM education and research have been introduced or passed. Some include the Standards to Provide Educational Achievement for Kids (SPEAK) Act, the 21st Century Competitiveness Act, and the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act.
What is NSTA's position on No Child Left Behind (NCLB)?
NSTA supports the NCLB requirement that students be assessed in science. Although science is being assessed under NCLB, the results of these assessments do not count in a school's accountability system (Adequate Yearly Progress, AYP). NSTA supports including science assessment results in AYP and calls on Congress to enact this change.